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Jan 13, 2017

The Maritime Areas Act will be amended, says P.M.

Dean Barrow

In the context of the discussions on the amendment to the Referendum Act, a nearly quarter-century old piece of legislation that once split the United Democratic Party was brought back onto the stage. The Maritime Areas Act was passed under the second administration of the late George Cadle Price after then-President of Guatemala, Jorge Serrano, recognized the state of Belize in 1991 and an acceleration in negotiations took place. A majority of members of the U.D.P., then in Opposition and including future Foreign Affairs Minister and Prime Minister Dean Barrow, supported and campaigned for the Bill, only to see the late Philip Goldson and others break away in opposition. There was also a change of administration in Guatemala to more hard-line elements that reversed the earlier position. The U.D.P. came together with Goldson’s National Alliance for Belizean Rights and won the 1993 general election, as then-Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel pledged that the Act would be repealed, but it never was. Fast forward to today, and Prime Minister Barrow, after repeated references by the Opposition, made clear that while Belize had never given up its maritime rights, with the situation having changed irrevocably, in due time the Act would be amended to restore those full maritime rights.


Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Somebody also suggested that by passing the Maritime Areas Act, we, as it were, relinquished our right to the full extent of territorial sea that is ours under international law – that’s not how I understood it. I understood that we made it absolutely plain that our right under international law is our right – nobody can take that away – but that for so long as it took to try and proceed with the negotiations, we would refrain from exercising a right that we repeated we have and will always have, so I think that should be made clear. Quite frankly, we say that negotiations are at an end – and I understand what is meant when you put that proposition forward – but yet you talk about forming a national negotiating team. So there may not be the formal negotiations within the formal framework that was contemplated and that perhaps operated for a while when the Maritime Areas Act limitation was passed. But there are still negotiations to be done. In any event, long story short, speaking for myself, I agree that we should amend the Maritime Areas Act; and that’s why we’re suggesting, let’s not get bogged down – because it’s anticipation; that will come. The matter of timing is important, but I absolutely support the position that we should now amend the Maritime Areas Act to eliminate the forbearance that we offered at the time when it was passed.”

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